CUNNING STUNTS (1975)
1 The Show Of Our Lives (5:43)
2 Stuck In A Hole (3:08)
3 Lover (5:07)
4 No Backstage Pass (4:31)
5 Welcome The Day (3:59)
6 Dabsong Conshirtoe (18:00)
6a The Mad Dabsong
6b Ben Karratt Rides Again
6c Pro's And Con's
6d Wraiks And Ladders
6e Sneaking Out The Bare Quare
6f All Sorts Of Unmentionable Things
7 The Fear And Loathing In Tollington Park Rag (1:07)
bonus tracks on the 2001 Decca CD:
8 Stuck In A Hole (3:11) (single version)
9 Keeping Back My Love (5:15) (previously unreleased)
9 For Richard (18:33) (recorded live at The Fairfield Hall, Croydon 1974, previously unreleased)
Richard Coughlan (drums, percussion)
Pye Hastings (electric and acoustic guitar, vocals)
Geoffrey Richardson (viola, flute, acoustic and electric guitar)
Dave Sinclair (keyboards)
Mike Wedgwood (bass, congas, vocals)
REVIEWS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES
Contrasting the clever spoonerism from which Cunning Stunts derives its name, Caravan are heard on what is arguably their most uninspired material to date. The effort is certainly far from a total loss, but nowhere nearly as creative as their former studio effort For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (1973) -- the likes of which sadly would not be equalled. Instead of commencing the affair with the aggression and spirit that informed previous LPs -- such as "Memory Lain, Hugh" or "Waterloo Lilly" -- which had christened their earlier albums, "The Show of Our Lives" comes off comparatively heavy and practically dirge-like. Caravan's trademark instrumental agility while perhaps temporarily mired, is not lost on Pye Hastings' uptempo rocker "Stuck in a Hole." Heavy-handed, superfluous orchestration -- possibly a residual effect of their New Symphonia project from late 1973 -- mars "No Backstage Pass" and the 18-minute "Dabsong Conshirtoe." There are a few trademark and at times edgier passages, especially during the "Ben Karratt Rides Again" movement of the epic "Conshirtoe." Still, the orchestration is too slick sounding, as if it were teetering on the aural wallpaper that is (gasp!) Muzak. Caravan enthusiasts intent on including Cunning Stunts in their collections should be aware that the 2001 CD reissue contains a few choice supplementary selections. Chief among these is an unissued take of "Keeping Back My Love" -- which would ultimately be reworked three years later on Better by Far (1977). Here the band definitely display signs and sounds of the Caravan of old. For that cut alone, the renovated offering can be sufficiently recommended. The other significant bonus track is a live "For Richard" recorded at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England. Originally, it was included on the 1976 Canterbury Tales best-of, but makes its digital debut here.
Lindsay Planer (ALLMUSIC)
I completely disagree with Lindsay Planers All Music review of Caravan's album entitled Cunning Stunts. Admittedly, this was the very first album I ever heard by Caravan, but this is without a doubt my favorite Caravan album... if not my favorite album period! What Pye Hastings does with massed violins on this album is completely amazing. All by himself, Pye sounds like a full orchestra of pizzicato violins on "Lover/No Backstage Pass". And the all-instrumental interlude between those two songs is simply gorgeous. My heart melts whenever I hear it. "The Show Of Our Lives" is one of Caravan's most pop-sounding songs, and it's theme is very familiar to someone like me who has performed on stage with a band. I was actually very disappointed to go back to their older (and more famous) albums only to find that they sounded nothing like Cunning Stunts. The older albums are almost entirely electric guitar power songs without the warmth and "touch" that is found on Cunning Stunts. There's far more range on Cunning Stunts than on any of Caravan's other albums. In fact, only "All The Way" (which is found on their next album) is on par with the great songs on Cunning Stunts.
Gary Shollenberger, 10.08.2016 (ALLMUSIC)
While the band's obsessive attraction to sexual jokes and innuendos seems to have become a permanent fixture — as witnessed by the current title — the musical direction that the Hastings-led Caravan was taking clearly took a sharp turn in between 1973 and 1975. Technically, Cunning Stunts is still a progressive rock album, what with most of the second side being given over to yet another complex, multi-part suite, and some of the other songs still showing a strong classical and/or jazz influence. But in reality, the whole thing sounds more like «art pop» now, hook-based, potentially radio-friendly and mass-accessible songs without anything particularly unpredictable, bizarre, or musically challenging about them. Part of the blame could be lifted off Pye's shoulders and placed on the new band member, bass player Mike Wedgwood, who is, for instance, guilty of bringing with him arguably the least Caravan-like song so far in their catalog — the soft funk-rocker 'Welcome The Day', which, honestly, sounds more like The Average White Band than anything Canterbury-related, and is only salvageable due to Geoffery Richardson's viola accompaniment (it is not every day, after all, that you hear a viola take an integral part in a funk rocker) and Hastings' inspired wah-wah solo, which he somehow manages to deliver with suitably hard rocking fiery aggression, though, unfortunately, the rest of the band still sleepwalks through it while he is kicking their asses. Also, for that matter, Wedgwood's vocals are quite a heavy blow for all those accustomed to Sinclair's and Hastings' sweet, disarmingly childlike tones — Wedgwood introduces a belt-it-out arena-rock component, bringing on unnecessary associations with Foreigner way before Foreigner even formed, so there's definitely something evil going on. Still, it was Pye who okayed Wedgwood in the first place, and it is Dave Sinclair who is responsible for much of the songwriting on the album, so blame it on the new times, not the new people. And, besides, why should one necessarily talk in terms of blaming? So now the band does sound, occasionally, more like Elton John than Caravan: this is particularly evident on Pye's muscular pop-rocker 'Stuck In A Hole', which (perhaps, quite subconsciously, as a result of too much radio listening) borrows the rhythmic pattern from Elton's 'Philadelphia Freedom', and on Wedgwood's second contribution, the slow, power-chord driven ballad 'Lover', where some of the vocal moves instinctively echo Elton's tragic-redemptional intonations on 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight' (is it really a coincidence that we are talking about two back-to-back Caravan songs here reflecting the possible influence of two back-to-back Elton John singles released in the same year?). But while 'Lover' certainly drags, and its orchestral climax also comes out as meandering and muzak-y rather than properly climactic à la Buckmaster, 'Stuck In A Hole' is fun and catchy, and I am not ready to count an Elton John influence on a prog-rock band as necessarily denigrating — hey, as long as you are cleverly ripping off Captain Fantastic-era material, you may have any pedigree you like without dishonoring yourself. At other times, they sound like the pompous, anthemic symph-pop of Argent — 'The Show Of Our Lives', for the first time in Caravan history, tries to introduce them grandly and ceremoniously, with a slow celebratory march and a genuine wall of sound. It's done with taste, and Pye, in particular, contributes fabulously melodic guitar passages; as the multi-tracked choir steps in with the final "ring the bells and sing, gather 'round and sing" incantation, we enter 'Hey Jude' mode, not as boldly and full-heartedly, perhaps, as should be done for full cathartic effect, but to some effect, sure. Is this «commercialization»? From a certain point of view, most naturally: a bit of straightforward grandioseness, in the age of arena-rock and AOR, could be regarded as a gamble for extra popularity. On the other hand, just how legitimate a prog-rock band could be without having at least one Big Universalist Anthem to its name?.. As to the oddly titled 'Dabsong Conshirtoe', it is far from the best Caravan epic, but it's a good piece of work all the same. It has far more lyrics and vocals than their usual epics, and could, in fact, be construed as merely a sequence of autonomous ballads and rockers, but it still finds some space in the middle to incorporate a waltzing jazz-rock jam, and it also features an unusual ending: the last part is a lengthy, repetitive vamp centered around a loud, paranoid hard rock riff with quasi-chaotic walls of sonic noise gradually rising against it, before the stormy rumble ends up drowning itself in a reprise of the "ring the bells and sing" part of 'The Show Of Our Lives'. I guess this symbolizes the ultimate triumph of Harmony over Chaos — well, it would be strange to expect anything less than that from a band as naturally optimistic as Caravan. Upon some deliberation, I'm still inclined to call Cunning Stunts a thumbs up-worthy success. It's a little slow and draggy in places, and a little out-of-their-league in others, and a clear dropdown off the Plump In The Night level, but overall, they are in good shape to survive the crisis of the mid-Seventies if you grant them the permission to move one step away from the classic Caravan spirit and incorporate all these other influences. On the other hand, it is also a transitional album, suffering from a lack of clear understanding of what exactly it is that they want to be at the moment: Blind Dog At St. Dunstan's would soon be spelling out the new status in a far more transparent manner. Still, no reason whatsoever to ignore this work — as far as I'm concerned, it still forms an essential part of the band's «classic streak».
George Starostin 05.04.2017 (ONLY-SOLITAIRE.BLOGSPOT.COM)
I never spend a day without Caravan. They are my great missing link in the prog cannon. Unlike P.F.M. they never get to the point where there's nothing really left for you but confused wankery and you eventually give-up. Cunning Stunts goes in a direction that I would rather them not after "girls" but the musicianship still wins you over and I agree with the opinion of Pye Hastings' blossoming ability as a song writer. But for a middle - it's not Pye singing the styxee "show of our lives", it's Wedgewood. Another mystery to me is that the cheesy seventies sound starts to emerge here along with mushy themes, pretty as they are. These don't come without Dave Sinclairs wonderful sense of groove and tasty soloing so I'll count the blessings. The albums deficit is Wedgewood's songs as you identify, he's a better singer and a good bassist. Richardson has less to do as well. But Pye's voice and his melodic structures are so wonderful that you almost forgive him for selling off all the prog china. The musicianship is so solid, so professional, so tight. What a group. Finally, there's plenty of delights but they are interrupted by the 'ole leap for the needle. Q: Why do records in the mid-70's sound dated when work '70 - '73 can be timeless? Case in point: the chukka-wukka guitars during the second side suite, particularly after the tasty flute/keyboard jam?
Jackie Brown-Hart 24.01.2003
Yes, Mike Wedgwood is a fantastic singer, and when he was young he had the voice of an angel, as Head Chorister in Salisbury Cathedral, that exquisite edifice of Early English Gothic with a spire 404 feet high. In his youth Mike also used to play incredibly good sax, clarinet, keyboards, bass, drums and he always took the lead vocals because he could sing, literally, anything in any key. He also scored for a full orchestra for Nicky James and John Entwistle. I love this album, although it has its flaws. Mike's vocals on 'Show of our Lives' is staggering - get the note just below top A at the end, and did you realise that Geoff Richardson plays all the guitar on it?. And (mainly) Pye's Conshirto on side two has some great rocky moments, again with powerhouse vocals from Mike. It's not a complete success, but Pye's songs are all pretty good. Lover, though, is a great song with a cracking solo by Pye. Rating? 7/10. If it were released now, 10/10 because there would be no real competition at the top of the second division.
Tom Thatcher 7/10 28.03.2006
Poppy and identity-losing at a fast pace, but compensated by Hastings' ever-increasing songcrafting abilities.
Best song: DABSONG CONSHIRTOE
Caravan becomes Styx. No, really. I'm not joking. Just substitute Hastings with Tommy Shaw on 'The Show Of Our Lives' and you get a typical Styx number - glamorous, upbeat, with a joyful juvenile delivery, keyboard-based with atmospheric synths in the background and a certain nasty tepidness that undermines the song'a adequacy. The main differences are crucial, of course - Hastings' arrangements are far more ear-pleasing, with real pianos and real tasty electric guitars carrying the song forward, thus it's not an absolute disaster. But it's a rather discouraging start to the album anyway, and for many fans Cunning Stunts marks the beginning of the end - Caravan's transformation from Britain's leading underground prog band to Britain's most unremarkable pop band. Such a transformation isn't at all surprising, as most prog bands eventually underwent it; it's weird, though, that Caravan seemed to have initiated the process before anybody else, as 1975 was still a year in which some progressive rock mattered, and even the biggies like Yes or Genesis weren't ready to 'poppify' their basic musical paradigm. And, of course, it's even stranger that Caravan would want to poppify their sound in a Styx-like manner, i.e. pompous, but essentially simplistic 'arena-pop' with a lot of theatrical overtones. That said, Cunning Stunts (and the title says it all, too, together with the cover) is still a lot better than almost any Styx record. Not among Caravan's best, it does one thing that could have been overlooked earlier: shows that Hastings' love towards accessible, but well-written and well-established melodic hooks has not only increased through the years, but actually transformed him into a first-rate songmeister. Although I suppose it's a mistake to mention Hastings alone: in fact, Pye isn't even responsible for the majority of the compositions on the album; the songwriting is more or less equally spread between him, Dave Sinclair and new band member bassist Mike Wedgwood. Out of these, Wedgwood is definitely the weakest link - not that I can really blame him, him being a new member and all, but the problem is that he offers material which Hastings obviously doesn't know what to do with. Namely, he offers one soul ballad ('Lover') and one funky rave-up ('Welcome The Day'), both of which could have been done much better in the hands of real pros. 'Lover', in particular, is a song of the kind that only sound good when treated with a powerful vocal delivery, preferrably from some expert black singer, and the expressions "Pye Hastings" and "powerful vocal delivery" are even bigger oxymorons than "Britney Spears" and "Christina Aguillera". Yeah, right... As for 'Welcome The Day', this is a kind of song that only sounds good when played with the utmost energy, with fiery chunky funky guitars that tear the very soul out of you, and the expressions "fiery funky guitars" and "Caravan" are even bigger oxymorons than "Ricky Martin" and "George W. Bush"... Whatever, I'm just not in a particularly comparative mood today. Not that the songs are bad, but they might have done better. However, Pye's 'Stuck In A Hole' is a wonderful, simply wonderful McCartneyesque pop-rocker with an infectuous vocal melody and vocals that fit it quite right. Why does the guitar riff remind me of 'The Bitch Is Back', though? I have a deeper and deeper feeling that these guys were ripping off more sources I'll ever know... Never mind anyway, 'Stuck In A Hole' is one of the most fun, energetic, and moderate (3:06) tracks in the band's catalog. Plus, you gotta love the pretty contemplative medievalistic number 'No Backstage Pass', whose introspective painful lyrics are as close to personal as Pye ever got, I guess. The mid-tempo 'dragging' chorus might take a while to get to your soul, but give it time, and chances are the song might coincide with a particular mood of your spirit. You won't let it go afterwards. The biggest, hugest surprise for me was the band's 'Dabsong Conshirtoe' with its six 'movements' that occupies most of the second side. I usually tend to be very sceptic of 'epic tracks' that any certain ambitious band pens already past its peak - stuff like Yes' 'Awaken' (not to mention hideous borefests like 'Mind Drive', etc.), or Genesis 'One For The Vine', or ELP's 'Memoirs Of An Officer And A Gentleman', etc. Add to this the fact that I've very rarely been pleased by even a classic Caravan 'epic' in its entirety, and you'll understand the depths of my surprise when I actually discovered 'Dabsong Conshirtoe' to be one of the very best, if not the very best Caravan epic ever written. Sure, it's also spotty, with about four or five minutes worth of jamming I'd like to have thrown out. But the other parts rule! 'The Mad Dabsong' is pretty and soothing, and 'Ben Karratt Rides Again' wonderfully contrasts with it in its raging fury - after which 'Pro's And Con's' carries the anger and fury even further. Great instrumentation everywhere, plus superb vocal melodies. The 'Sneaking Out The Bare Quare' part is the jazzy jam I mentioned as unnecessary (it still doesn't hold a candle to the decisive jazzy jams on Waterloo Lily), but it all comes together in the climactic 'All Sorts Of Unmentionable Things'. Yeah, I'd easily bet right now that out of all the 'serious' music written in 1975, 'All Sorts Of Unmentionable Things' is the most satisfying. Imagine something like the 'Wurm' coda to Yes' 'Starship Trooper', only faster and where 'Wurm' was pretty heavenly and optimistic, this one's more like aggressive and paranoid, with ominous violas and heavy guitars carrying forward the rhythm and tons of apocalyptic noise overdubs are gradually heaped upon it. Like somebody just took the coda to 'I Am The Walrus' and crossed it with 'Revolution 9', then squashed onto that frantic rhythm section. Mah-velous, and it all really gives the 'Conshirtoe' some kind of positive final link in the chain, otherwise it's just a bunch of unrelated and often nonsensic compositions. Now you see it's a composition dedicated to the end of the world. Or maybe not, but that's how it works in my brains... although if it's like that, then we have to deal with the end of an old world and the beginning of a new one - the album ends with a reprisal of 'Show Of Our Lives' that slowly grows out of the coda, and then with a pretty one-minute acoustic snippet of 'The Fear And Loathing In Tollington Rag'. Cute! So count this as a very strong seven/weak eight, and if you have some spare time and a teenage lust to kill, just massacre all the Caravan fans who twirl their noses at this album. But don't quote me on that, please. I never said that! It was just my subconscious, and you know people aren't really responsible for their subconscious.
George Starostin 8/10 (STARLING)
2.5 stars really!!
The beginning of the end although they might argue that this was the end of the begionning. This should have been a great Lp but the sound is completely different (more Americanized) and one wonder what a master piece the suite might have been if it had been recorded one year earlier. Actually, the BBC sessions make some of these tracks better and more-Caravan sounding. Another Stunning play on words on the title of the album, you Cµnts??? ;-)
Sean Trane 2,5/5 02.02.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
This album has three good tracks (the long Dabsong Con-Shirt-Toe suite is the best, but the Tollington Pk Rag and No Backstage Pass are fine too), but the other four songs are awful. 'Stuck in a Hole' really sums it up here, not just for Caravan at the time, but for the mid-1970's boring commercial-rock sound that it reproduces. I can't believe the latter was released as a single!
email@example.com. 2/5 03.02.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
The Show of Our Lives and No Backstage Pass are the best songs ever recorded by Caravan, in my humble opinion. The Dabsong Conshirtoe is a little self indulgent, but is pleasant enough for an ambient piece. This is a very under rated album. Sure it doesn't sound like their previous albums, but it would be rather pointless to make the same album over and over.
petekstranded. 4/5 14.03.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
"Cunning Stunts" is another superb Canterbury prog release from CARAVAN mixing all the right elements throughout. Songs range from more pop orientated (side A) to the side long epic "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" which shows a more progressive side of CARAVAN ( a six part movement). "Cunning Stunts" in many ways is actually my fav of CARAVAN's output with some great gentle CAMEL-like canterbury keyboards and songs. Vocals are picture perfect with great harmonies and thoughtful backing vocals. The reason why I love this album is that although "Cunning Stunts" carries all the trademarks of classic CARAVAN they involve more CAMEL imagery than say SOFT MACHINE influences. A beautiful album worthy of your collection...
loserboy 4/5 19.03.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
STUCK IN A HOLE and the brilliant DABSONG CONSHIRTOE make this album for me. HOLE sounds like NIGHT OWL-era Gerry Rafferty, while the CONSHIRTOE is simply mesmerizing. Along with GREY AND PINK and PLUMP IN THE NIGHT, this has to be one of Caravan's best.
garyr@beachto 3/5 27.03.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
The worst caravan album! Man! This album is really awful! The album is often full of accoustic rhythmic guitar and pseudo sentimental background string or minimal keyboards arrangements! We are far from "In the Land of Grey and Pink"! The melodies are quite not catchy at all. The music is simple, the songs seems accessible but the addiction never comes! What happened to those guys? It is even BEATLES-esque!
greenback 2/5 08.04.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
Caravan put on the show of their lives, gery vood! The last of the great Caravan albums. The school playground humour of the title, and the rather nondescript sleeve disguise an excellent work which features many fine moments. The jazz influence which came to the fore on "Waterloo Lily" is seldom in evidence here, the album being among the band's most accessible releases, while retaining a significant depth of Canterbury prog. "The show of our lives" is a majestic opener, complete with chiming bells contributing to a veritable wall of sound. The stately pace and choral vocals give an almost stage show feel to the track. "Lover" and "No backstage pass" combine well to form a beautiful 10 minute piece which was to become a regular feature of their live set. The "Dabsong concerto" occupies virtually all of side 2 of the LP. It carries many of the Caravan trademarks, with some fine instrumental work. It does tend to drift a bit midway through, but is brought back together by a reprisal of "The show of our lives" to end the track. Overall, a slightly more commercial album than their previous offerings, but another classic Caravan release nonetheless. The 2001 remastered CD version has 3 extra tracks including the rare "Keeping back my love" and an 18 minute live version of the classic "For Richard".
Easy Livin 4/5 09.04.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
People say it was the beginning of the end for Caravan. I couldn't disagree more. This and Blind Dogs are very well produced albums continuing in the jazzy mix of WL but obviously not as prog influenced. The Dabsong Conshirtoe is an epic as is ' Stuck in a Hole', ' No backstage Pass' and the soft rocker ' Welcome the Day'. Highly recommended particularly for those who enjoy the jazz side of Caravan.
Chris S 4/5 04.07.2004 (PROGARCHIVES)
Proghead I hate to come down hard on CARAVAN, after releasing a handful of good to great albums, they came up with this over-orchestrated disaster known as "Cunning Stunts". The lineup at this point was Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Geoff Richardson, Richard Coughlin, and Mike Wedgwood. Wedgwood was previously CURVED AIR and appeared on the wonderful "Phantasmagoria" and its followup, "Air Cut" (which I hadn't heard yet, but had a lineup change for that album). While Mike Wedgwood's appearance in CURVED AIR didn't hurt the band any (after all, the songwriting there was confined to Sonja Kristina, Darryl Way, and Francis Monkman, keeping the CURVED AIR sound), his appearance in CARAVAN really hurt the band, as he seemed to take over here and hogged the spotlight. And most of the stuff he came up with is mush, like "The Show of Our Lives" and "Lover". The orchestrations don't help. What's really lacking here is the whimsy, and the charm of earlier albums, concentrating too much on orchestration. Pye Hasting's rare vocal show, "Stuck in a Hole" is a bit of an improvement. And where's David Sinclair? Mostly it's just him on piano, I start missing his organ, like on "In the Land of Grey & Pink". "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" is the side-length cut, which actually has some excellent moments, starts off rather mushy, but still prevents the album from being a complete disaster. Not the first place to start if you're new to CARAVAN. Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#21402) Posted Thursday, November 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead 2/5 05.05.2011 (PROGARCHIVES)
This album was Caravan's most commercially succesful, driven by the (relative) single sucess of the songs "Stuck in a Hole" and "The Show of Our Lives". Despite this, it earns a lot of derision on the part of die-hard fans, some unwarranted. This is the last good release from Caravan, and has many reasons to recommend it. (It sports a great cover, and Caravan had not lost their trademark Canterbury humour, with the title pun, "Cunning Stunts"). By this point the lineup consisted of band leader and guitarist Pye Hastings, the canterbury legend (and recently returned) David Sinclair on keys, Richard Coughlan on Drums, Geoff Richardson on Violin and Mike Wedgewood on Bass. A strong lineup, but the addition of Wedgewood does push them into much more conventional, rock-pop mould. The album opens with the stately Sinclair composition "The Show of Our Lives", which is the closest Caravan comes to symphonic prog. This slow and majestic track is a real gem, Pye's voice and guitar are both spot on, as well as Richardson as always fantastic violin/viola work. The next track, Pye Hasting's "Stuck in a Hole" was Caravan's biggest hit, and while it lacks the power and grandeur of "Show of our Lives" and their earlier work, it is nonetheless enjoyable and fun, (although not the sound Caravan fans had come to expect). The next three tracks are rather mediocre bordering on insufferable. Mike Wedgewood's "Lover" is one of the most hated tracks ever by Caravan fans, with good reason. It is syrupy trash with little substance. "Welcome the Day" and "no Backstage Pass" are a bit better, though instantly forgettable. With the eighteen minute "Dabsong Concerto", another Sinclair composition, Caravan return to their strong canterbury jazz roots, and they do it well. This is the last epic in the bands repertoire, and its memorable. It has a poppy begginning, similar to many of their songs, which fades into a great Jazz-Prog workout. While Caravan had no doubt drifted towards a more commercial sound of late, they showed they could still play, and play well on this track. Interestingly, this track not only draws its inspiration from folk, jazz and prog like many Caravan tracks, but their is a great deal of Funk in it as well! Overall a very enjoyable and lively track (minus the repetitive and annoying ending with random sound effects). The album closes with a short (1 minute) and pleasant piece called "the Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park Rag", a nice little acoustic guitarpiece and a great way to end the album. Overall a pleasant and enjoyable album, and the last of any importance from Caravan. Despite three weak middle tracks, it is a strong album, and any fan of the lighter, more structured side of Canterbury will love it - 3.5 stars.
NetsNJFan 3/5 23.06.2005 (PROGARCHIVES)
"Cunning Stunts" of announcement in 1975. The last work in DERAM age. The feature of the sound is graceful British pop shown by the first two. It is a system to which the influence of THE BEATLES such as 10CC and WINGS has been received. The first half is a melodious pop like Paul McCartney. The latter half is a masterpiece of the medley that can be concentrated on the sound in a relaxed manner. It is possible to listen to the CARAVAN world the encounter or not dividing.
braindamage. 4/5 20.08.2005 (PROGARCHIVES)
I dug this out for this review after not having listened to it for over 20 years and the reasons I didn't like it then apply more than ever now. Caravan had gone through several line up changes since their masterpiece (In the Land of Grey and Pink), the charismatic and excellent bass/vocalist Richard Sinclair having left to be replaced by Mike Wedgewood and Geoff Richardson having come in to take the load off Dave Sinclair in the lead instrument role. He provides viola and electric guitar solos, largely because Pye Hastings seems unwilling or unable to solo. However, the problem does not lie with the musicians, all of whom play very competently. Caravan are noted for quirky, very English songs with a distinct sense of humour. The material here is generally completely average and most of it is forgettable. The Show of our Lives is the best track on side 1 and escapes criticism, being a fine song in the true Caravan mould with some great choral singing. Stuck in a Hole was released as a single but flopped deservedly; the title describes the band's predicament well. Lover is horrible, slushy and slow with dreadful string arrangements and the last 2 tracks are entirely forgettable, Welcome the Day being decidely poppy and fairly horrible. Side 2 is almost all taken up by The Dabsong Concerto which sounds like an attempt to revisit Nine Feet Underground. It is pretty good overall and has its moments of brilliance, but it's a bit self indulgent in parts and does not ignite in the way the earlier piece did. So how to rate this mixed bag? Bearing in mind that I have owned this LP for 31 years and have probably played it less than 10 times (it's in pristine condition!), that must say something. It falls between 2 and 3* but, like the curate's egg, good in parts only merits 2*.
Tony Fisher 2/5 14.08.2006 (PROGARCHIVES)
This is Caravan's first sort-of dud, ironic considering that it was their most commercially successful album at the time (and ever, I think). I think they really missed Richard Sinclair's talents as a singer and composer and his sense of humour. The genius of In the Land of Grey and Pink is not present here. For Girls Who Grow Plump... was a pleasant album with some memorable, inventive tunes, but this one passes by without much to remember. That's not to say it's not pleasant- the strings, piano, flute and viola are quite elegant and Pye Hastings remains a good singer and a decent songwriter, but it's all rather inconsequential and a bit bland, sort of like a Peter Frampton album. The songs are pretty much soft-rock with an occasional stab at a kind of white funk groove. The 18 minute Dabsong Conshirtoe is basically a bunch of songs like the rest of the album tied together, not a real epic. I don't mean to come down so hard on the album, but by Caravan's high standards, this slice of competent 70s rock doesn't really measure up. Having said that, if you are building a core collection of Caravan albums, this is certainly pleasant enough to add to your purchases. Just don't expect anything too mind-blowing.
Heptade 2/5 02.11.2006 (PROGARCHIVES)
This will probably sound heretical for die-hard CARAVAN fans, but I enjoy this album much more than heavily overrated "The Land of Grey and Pink"! It's soft and easy to listen, true, but it is not simply "soft-rock" or "easy-listening" music. The music flows perfectly from start to finish and seems like well-constructed and composed theme. This LP is far from groundbreaking or avant-garde innovations. It is far from masterpiece. But it is simply very nice album to listen to and enjoy. I don't see a reason why "Cunning Stunts" shouldn't be included in any decent prog collection.
Seyo 4/5 09.11.2006 (PROGARCHIVES)
While you listen to the opening song, you will pass through several experiences : some dull acoustic start, a sumptuous guitar break and finally a gospel oriented finale. Quite an indigestible mix. "Stuck In A Whole" is more in the style of their previous (and more rocking) album. An easy listening and upbeat rock song. Not bad, but not really good either! It is true to say that this album is not a great one. The syrupy and well titled "Lover" is an ultra mellowish song which collapses under heavy orchestrations. Press next. My favourite song from this album is "No Backstage Day". Smooth vocals are combined with a beautiful melody and when the band group its forces and perform the upbeat middle part, we are not far away of the best "Caravan" which is of course not the case during the funky "Welcome The Day". Press next. The epic of this album is another pleasant song. It combines quiet musical moments and rock passages with a special mention to the very good violin play (but these brass are too invading). It should please any "Caravan" fan. It saves a bit this album I must say. Some jazzy flavours and good fluting almost fully occupies the second half of this long piece (eighteen minutes, sharp). I admit that the last five funky minutes are repetitive and useless. It really ends up nowhere. A pity because without those brass and this finale it could have been a good epic. This is an aaverage album even if the remastered edition features a good version of For Richard. Two stars.
ZowieZiggy 2/5 27.01.2008 (PROGARCHIVES)
Cunning Stunts is the sixth studio album from Caravan. After the brilliant For Girls Who Grow Plumb in the Night, I expected an equally stunning album, but I guess Caravan´s great era ended with For Girls Who Grow Plumb in the Night because Cunning Stunts is a disappointment compared to the previous album. It´s not all bad though and there are hints to the Caravan we love. The Show of Our Lives starts the album. It´s a semi-ballad song with lots of orchestration. I can´t say I enjoy this song very much. It´s definitely not to my taste. Stuck in a Hole is the next song and here the quality is considerably higher. This is how Caravan should sound like IMO. It´s an energetic song that reminds me a bit about some of the songs from For Girls Who Grow Plumb in the Night. One of the best songs here without a doubt. Lover is a terrible cheesy ballad type song with lots of orchestration. Really not my taste at all. Around this time of listening I was seriously worried if Cunning Stunts would continue in this way but fortunately the next song No Backstage Pass is a pretty good subtle Caravan song. But then we go again with a terrible song. Welcome the Day has beat that is almost in the vein of disco. This song is so cheesy I can´t stand it. The keyboard solo by David Sinclair is a bit redeeming though. It´s a very bad song though. Dabsong Conshirto is an 18 minute long song which is the definite highlight of Cunning Stunts. This is actually one of the greatest compositions I have heard so far from Caravan. Lots of soloing by violin, keyboards and flute but there are also some of the most demanding vocal parts Pye Hastings ever did. Really high pitched without sounding forced. What a great song. The last song is The Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park which is a short almost bluegrass inspired guitar led song but then flute kicks in and gives it a folky touch. Ok but nothing special. The musicianship is very good even though it´s hard to understand that brilliant musicians like these want´s to play some of the things played on Cunning Stunts. The production is very good. I really enjoy this production and I wish that the music had been better so it could have profited from the good sound quality. Cunning Stunts have good moments and terrible moments and it´t definitely not my favorite Caravan album but the good moments does mean that I will rate Cunning Stunts 3 stars. Two songs stand out as the best and saves the album and that is Stuck in a Hole and Dabsong Conshirto. This is partially recommendable. I would buy this if I fell over it in a record store but it´s not the kind of album I would seek out.
UMUR 3/5 10.06.2008 (PROGARCHIVES)
Neither cunning nor stunning
This is one of Caravan's better albums, but it is far away from the previous For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night. Cunning Stunts consists mainly of rather lightweight songs with a distinct Pop flavour. Perhaps, not that they are particularly commercial or very memorable, but they are quite accessible and cathcy they somehow lack an edge. The opening song, The Show Of Our Lives, is more grandiose and symphonic than what we are used to from Caravan. It is a lovely song though, but hardly progressive. The misguided Jazz-Rock/Fusion direction of Waterloo Lily is thankfully not resurrected on this album. Instead they chose here to be a bit more accessible and melodic which benefits their sound much more than Jazz-Rock in my opinion. However, they often sound rather anonymous here and a bit too lighthearted for my taste. The Disco flavoured Welcome The Day would have fitted perfectly, both musically and lyrically, on an Alan Parsons Project album like I Robot or Eve! The centrepiece of the album is the 18 minute, multipart The Dabsong Conshirtoe. This is clearly the most interesting song on the album and is quite nice. However, it does not compare favourably to the For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night material or the classic Five Feet Underground from The Land Of Gray And Pink. The conclusion is that Cunning Stunts, while neither particularly cunning nor particularly stunning, is still a good album. However, it is hardly essential listening.
SouthSideoftheSky 3/5 20.07.2008 (PROGARCHIVES)
An admitted step in the "commercialized" direction. Yeah? What's wrong with that? Is that your definition of a cunning stunt, sir or madam? Pye Hastings wanted to be a successful rock musician; don't we all want to succeed in what we strive at? Taking that into consideration, it is quite understandable why the change of direction took place. Caravan's first foray into "pop slop" brought upon a minor success on the charts that had given Hastings hope, despite having betrayed his previous trench coat and fishing hat clad cult fan base in order to "sell out". Being a second generation member of this Caravan cult, I can't say I'm happy with all of the decisions made on this album but the ones derived from Caravan's roots (Pretty sounding instrumentation and ace melodies) make this album a very tolerable bugger. The only notable change in the line up is that the uncanny Ozzy Osbourne sound-alike, John G. Perry, has been replaced by a certain Mike Wedgewood on bass. Wedgy had been previously part of another "progressive" outfit called Curved Air and in which, he had the curious behavior of penning something called "songs". Not particularly good ones either. During his short time in Caravan, he kept up this painful habit and wrote some real stinkers that clog up this album's already unhealthy arteries real nicely. The Wedgewood compositions "Lover" and "Welcome the Day" are completely incompatible with Caravan's sound. What would be incompatible for this white n' nerdy n' proggy group, you ask? "Lover" is a "passionate, soulful crooner" and "Welcome the Day" is an "aggressive, 'soul on fire' funker". Is there any other band that these two genres would sound more awkward and stiff coming out of? Well? yeah, certainly a lot of bands on these archives that's for sure. Anyway, "Lover" and "Welcome the Day" would sound much happier being played, written and performed by Aretha Franklin and Sly and the Family Stone, respectively. I surmise the skinny and wimpy duo of Pye Hastings and Mike Wedgewood, would have to have a quick 'plasty and live on devil's food cake for the rest of their lives before they'd even be considerable as pop divas. Eww is right. Thankfully, the rest draws from much more standard influences for Caravan and the results are much nicer and respectable. With the exception of "Show of our Lives" which is a warm, friendly, show tune-y opener, everything else is easily identifiable as either pop or prog. "Stuck in a Hole"? Snappy Elton Johnesque pop with lots of wooden block clunking. "No Backstage Pass" Very weighty power ballad pop with a massive melodic chorus built on pure sprawl. "Dabsong Conshirtoe"? Hmm, what else would a twenty minute song be labeled as? If you guessed neo-beatnik poetry masquerading as synth horn filled dance pop with twenties stylizations, you lucky kiddie, are correct. Yeah right. More like the long awaited sequel to the second side of "Abbey Road" with a firey prog instrumental coda. No kidding. "Dabsong" might in fact be one of the best prog twenty minute epics ever. The first three sections are three individual pop songs that segue into each other while the rest is purely instrumental. The songs themselves have absolutely nil to do with each other (other then being very catchy ditties) and the lyrics range from prog ponderings to more Pye Hasting patented lustings after chubby call girls. (To think Mr. Perverse Pye was totally one upping 'Sir Mix a lot' long before the rapper's debut in 1988) However, I like to think of this as one continued, (musically) conceptual piece of dynamics as the tension rises through three mighty fine pop songs, is dropped on a light, jazzy, and flutey interlude and slowly mounts with the final section "All Sorts Of Unmentionable Things" on a really dangerous and evil sounding riff until it bursts into a heavenly reprise of the closing section of "Show of Our Lives" before the tension is released for good on a tiny folkie snippet thing entitled "The Fear and Loathing of Tollington Park Rag". Yes, the lyrics are complete Canterbury scene styled canterbabble but musically it holds together extremely coherently (and the melodies stick in your head with a vengeance) and almost manages to knock "Supper's Ready" off it's high perch for me. Sorry but "Dabsong Conshirtoe" doesn't even touch my spiritual nerve in any way. (or even reach in that direction, for that matter) unlike the one in a million, "Supper's Ready". Well, with that last song colour me surprised that this album even made it on the charts. I'm sure the commercial pop crowd was a lot more tolerant towards nuances such as twenty minute long time wasters back then. (Wasn't Yes's "Going For The One" also mildly successful despite it's 15 minute epic?) While today, they're pretty oblivious to anything that isn't saturated with Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus all over it. Come to think if it, what if Billy Ray's daughter ever came around to writing (Yea, I'm 98% sure she doesn't even write her own songs, but if she did?) a twenty minute epic would prog archives include her in their vast discography? Would people here embrace it or shun it? Well, if it was a mighty country flavored epic with those eye ball tic bad, "cowgirl" vocals, I know I'd spit my acidic critic juice all over it. The day Prog itself finally sells out? Yes and dee dee. This album is a little bit commercialized too but what it actually knows how to do (pop n' prog NOT funk n' soul) it does well.
Album Grade: B-
Best Songs: Stuck in a Hole, Dabsong Conshirtoe,
Worst Songs: Lover, Welcome The Day
LionRocker. 3/5 27.07.2010 (PROGARCHIVES)
Caravan turned on US market with this album. They always were pop-folk wing of Canterbury scene, but on their previous albums they quite successfully balanced between catchy melodies, soft multi layered sound and light smell of jazzy psychedelia to stay one of most respectable Canterbury scene band. With Cunning Stunts they left their usual field of activities. Songs there are a bit faster,less dreamy, missed almost all folksy moments, but became much more funky and a bit more jazzy. Still big part of great melodies stayed on this release, and they are great material for almost groovy compositions a-la Steely Dan or Chicago (even more some compositions sound close to ELO prog-boogie ,or are influenced by American folk music) I believe for Canterbury scene fans this album is a total disaster, but with my love to jazzy/funky grooves I can easily find an interesting side of the band's music there. For sure, a bit simplistic and some openly radio-friendly compositions didn't help much for band's progressive fame, but open ears listener will find really many interesting moments in the music of this album. Interesting release for funky jazz rock fans, not recommended for Canterbury or prog folk lovers.
snobb 3/5 22.11.2010 (PROGARCHIVES)
This is what I consider the last good thing made by Caravan. This quite underrated album (IMO of course) is similar in its structure to Grey and Pink: 5 songs on the A side and a suite on the B side, even if there's a short closer at the end. But let's go step by step: the album's opener is one of the most famous Caravan's tracks, at least by the mainstream public. It was also the title of the compilation that represented my first Caravan purchase. It's not on PA but I have to retrieve the vinyl in a box... "The Show Of Our Lives" is a major-chords-mellow-tempo song, nothing special apart the cello in the background and I really dislike its final. Things are little better with "Stick In A Hole", another of the Caravan's pop-oriented songs. It's a piece of British Glam as we have found several times in the previous albums. Not properly prog. Good but non-essential let's say. "Lover" seems to have been written to give Geoff Richardson the opportunity to place some strings here and there. This song can be skipped both for the trivial pop music and for the poor lyrics. At this point somebody could wonder why I call this album "the last good thing"...let's proceed. Strings and flute open "No Backstage Pass". It's the first true Caravan song. The vocals are not too dissimilar from Richard Sinclair's and the music is finally fully enjoyable. There's some pop in the chorus but it's not so bad to jeopardize the rest of the song. "Welcome the Day" is a surprise. I don't understand why a band like this tried to make a Disco-Funky song. The attempt was unsuccessful , specially because the chorus is too typical Caravan's stuff and this partially saves this song. Not that it's bad, but surely is not what one looks for in a Caravan's album. If I want this kind of things I can buy Bee Gees or at least the late 70s output of Wishbone Ash (a little better for me). Ok, the A side is no more than two stars, but "The Dashboard Conshirtoe" is about to come. Put the vinyl upside down and listen to one of the best songs ever released by this band. A slow melodic beginning with some jazzy accents, the only thing that appears misplaced is the bongos in the background. After a couple of minutes it goes uptime and it's not dissimilar from what is found in epics like Nine Feet Underground. The initial theme is then back just to introduce a glam part that's very enjoyable and contains the brasses arranged by Jimmy Hastings who reveals to be a genius. Also the guitar solo which follows is reminding of the acid sounds of the first albums. To be honest I like the Slade, so how could I dislike this? However it suddenly stops to leave room to a symphonic instrumental part which later turns into jazz. And it's really better than the first jazzy attempts of Waterloo Lily. The bass is so good that you wouldn't suspect that Richard Sinclair is not here. As often happens in jazz and in prog there's room for riffs from all the instruments, in particular guitar and electric piano which alternate several times. When the jazzy part stops one could expect a thunder like on For Richard. It turns into funky instead. This is a five minutes coda or better the final movement of the symphony which ends in chaos as also None Feet Underground does. Please forgive the last minute... The album is closed by "Tollington Park Rag". As the title says it's a ragtime and even if totally disconnected from the rest, I like it. One funny trivial is that I was unable to listen to it on vinyl without passing by the suite first, because moving the pick-up so close to the centre of the disk was causing the pick-up to go back to the standby position... I know that I shouldn't rate half of an album, but the B side is very good and at the level of the best things released by Caravan so missing it because of some poor things on the A side would be a pity. The A side is for fans only but the B side is an excellent addition. I will go for the average but with the temptation of rating it 4 stars.
octopus-4 3/5 01.04.2011 (PROGARCHIVES)
The consensus amongst most Caravan listeners seems to be that somewhere along the way they drifted a bit too far into commercialised poppy soft-rock realms, lost their distinctive personality, and churned out some really bad albums. The main point of disagreement seems to be precisely where the decline began. Personally, I take a hardline approach: Cunning Stunts, the album which changed up Caravan's sound and swapped out the Canterbury style of For Girls Who Grow Plump in favour of cheesy strings, anonymous and generic jazz-rock blended with unconvincing stabs at hard rock, and The Dabsong Conshirto, Caravan's least convincing epic (with most of its sections far outlasting their appeal). Sorry, Caravan, but here's where I get off the bus.
Warthur 2/5 04.10.2011 (PROGARCHIVES)
Sometimes, an album can come with a bad omen before the first listen. Take Caravan's sixth studio album, CUNNING STUNTS. When I first put on the record after I get home, I find that my copy got the pressing all screwed up and switched the two side labels around. That's just my bad experience with one item. The actual musical content of the record is about as head-scratching. From the band that had delighted fans with a unique concoction of jazz, prog, pop and psychedelia, and the band that really rebounded its career with FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT, to begin the album with something that wouldn't sound too out of place on a Billy Joel or Elton John record is frightening. ''The Show of Our Lives'' has extremely little of Caravan's usual pizzazz; instead, it opts to crack open in an American market that I assume never heard it. I hate to sound harsh, but if there is a good reason why CUNNING STUNTS has been obscured in comparison to other Caravan records, it's that most of the album sounds like very lightweight, generic '70s soft rock. What made Caravan Caravan is nearly nonexistent on the first side, save for a little Pye Hastings dry humour. New bassist (the third bassist in three albums) Mike Wedgewood isn't helping any as his two tracks (''Lover'', ''Welcome the Day'') sound awkward and never really fit Caravan's style. They sound like they're trying to be ''Caravan, the band, the musical'', and for this band it doesn't work. Also, on the previous album, I enjoyed the fresh sound Geoff Richardson's viola brought to the band; here, I forget he's in the band until about the fifth song. The only song that at least has somewhat of a lasting impression is ''The Dabsong Conshirto'', another attempt by David Sinclair to bring the band back into epic status. For CUNNING STUNTS, it's decent enough, but it's too clustered to be in ''Nine Feet Underground'' territory. For some reason, Hastings actually goes for the highest notes in his range early in the epic with mixed results. And ending with a reprise of ''The Show of Our Lives'' isn't a welcome conclusion in my book. For whatever reasons, CUNNING STUNTS is a huge disappointment of an album that Caravan hasn't quite rebounded from. The songs sound like clockwork and the band doesn't seem to gel like they have before. Speaking of unable to gel, Dave Sinclair exited the band again after this record.
Sinusoid 2/5 09.04.2013 (PROGARCHIVES)
Caravan left Canterbury and entered Crossovertown or perhaps Art Rock City but after hearing this pretty record I must confess that was not a bad development. I am happy how a band can change style and go to new dimensions but keep their excellent feeling for the art of music. Because music can still be fine art without being too progressive. On "Cunning stunts" Caravan also became harder than before. Caravan 1975 consisted of Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan, Geoff Richardson, David Sinclair and Mike Wedgwood and Jimmy Hastings. Of these two sides of one record, the second makes this music brilliant. Put "Cunning stunts" on and perhaps it will sound a little bit like the art rockers "10cc" (which is another great band). Caravan nice sound and catchy melodies has allways made a bridge to poular music and here they did it even clearer. But this is not a failed try to be popular, it feels honest every minute. "The show of our lives" is the starter with nice vocals and melody. "Stuck in a hole" is better with speed and interesting feeling. "Lover" has string and brass arrangements which makes it feel classical. "No backstage pass" is the albums second best track with the typital withdrawn vocals and a wonderful melody. Small influences of jazz in this pearl. "Welcome the day" is more ordinary but a clear rock song where the singer is aloud to show more of his abilities. "The badsong conshirtoe" is a true masterpiece of art rock like "Feel the benefit" by 10cc. It's a clever composition with a lot of intertexts from different styles and cultures. Maybe Caravan fans are unused to this new heavy Caravan but it is truely worth listening. The closer "The fear and the loathing in Tollington park rag" is short but not less beautiful. An acoustic little rag. I don't think I can hear any Canterbury scene here but I hear wonderful music and what is wrong with that? A somewhat inferior A-side takes away one star but four remain. Recommended!
DrömmarenAdrian. 4/5 018.06.2013 (PROGARCHIVES)
I’m well aware that this is where a lot of fans lose interest in Caravan but I really don’t see how that could be explained judged strictly from the music on “Cunning stunts” (allegedly a wordplay on “stunning c u n t s”, something they had proved themselves rather fond of. Wordplays, I mean. What did you think?). You see, I’m gonna skip ahead here and state that I really dig this album and claim that it’s not an iota worse than, say, their debut or “If I could screw you all over again, I would”. (Hey, don’t blame me! They started it!). Maybe it has something to do with prog starting to decline or maybe it’s their overall turn towards lush pop, but I don’t buy that. See, the structuring of this record doesn’t really differ from any previous Caravan album and they still manage to deliver a lengthy epic towards the end, and as for the decline of prog, well, that doesn’t explain the popularity of such records as “Going for the one”. No, allow me to speculate that it’s basically ignorance that keeps even fans away from this, and it was indeed released in the shadows of both the marvellous predecessor two years earlier, as well as their concerto performance that followed so it’s understandable that it couldn’t live up to the expectations. But it deserves a chance and you should grant it, or else I’ll be forced to dock off a point from my rating of you and we’ll see how fun that is! It opens on a really grand note with “The show of our lives” that almost manages to out-Queen Queen. That ascending chorus is really something, and newcomer Mike Wedgewood does an outstanding job in contributing the vocals. Yes, forgot to tell you; Since the last time he replaced John G. Perry on bass guitar and occasional vocals, as on this one. The grand piano and all those ethereal gospel stunts (cunning stunts indeed!) make for an almost celestial atmosphere. I can picture the song ascending and spreading out like a giant feathery cloud in the sky, can you? It’s followed by the bouncy pop-rocker “Stuck in a hole” which isn’t brilliant but a good McCartney-like relief in the process. “Lover” however, is a duffer and this is all Wedgewood’s fault. He seized his chance to slip in some stuff himself, one of which is this sugary soul ballad. It’s not suitable for Caravan at all, and I’d even say that it’s not suitable for anyone. It sounds like something Glenn Hughes would sneak onto a contemporary Purple record. (This is the second time I’m forced to mention him in a Caravan review! Why won’t he leave me alone? Get that bastard out of here! He’s a criminal! He kills good bands for no reason!) Anyway, it’s followed by another highlight in “No backstage pass” in which Pye shows off just about everything; His ever-growing songwriting skills, likewise growing singing abilities and tasteful guitarworks. This is probably one of his best guitar solos, reminding of both Steve Hackett and Andy Latimer, the latter especially thanks to the scat singing that joins in halfway through. And the main melody is top-notch, soothed by his tender vocals. Then it’s time for another Wedgewood-penned thingie, this time better though, being a chugging funk sendup (and yes, I know what I’ve said about funk but this one at least has a decent melody) named “Welcome the day”. Nothing special but a nice breather before the main course is served. Yeah, you guessed it. They were still not through with side-long multipart epics, although they would be after this one. “The dabsong conshirtoe” ends that grandiose tradition on a really high note, I say. Basically it’s a bunch of half-baked songs stitched together, but then again, what Caravan epic isn’t? No part overstays its welcome which means the song never has the chance of becoming boring. It begins as a lightweight, almost Hollywoodish, ballad that soon gets mixed up with a rocking brass-driven section during which Pye really shines as a singer. It kinda reminds me of late-period Beatles (which is one of the finest awards you can get), and we all know how the second half of “Abbey Road” was put together, right? Half-baked songs hastily glued together, and if it worked for them, why wouldn’t it work for anyone else? Because everyone else are inferior, that’s why. But Caravan proved to be talented enough to pull it off. After a brief orchestral break it then finds its way into the obligatory flute passage, probably one of their absolute best and most melodic ever. And the good thing is that it returns after the jazzy solo passage, which by the way is really nicely executed too. It all comes to a conclusion with a lengthy riff-fest dissolving into a total cacaphony of snippets taken from just about everywhere. Kinda like the coda of “I am the walrus” or something. Do you think Beatles would have made a good Canterbury band? Man, this is my number one bet for the best Caravan epic ever, and this alone is a reason not to disregard the album. Oh yeah, the album ends with a minute of instrumental country-rag which is nice and all, but not terribly worthy of being written about more than this. So, you see, the race wasn’t run for the band even in the steadily darkening mid-70's, not yet. The tendency to streamline the sound to the more accessible genres of the time was starting to make itself visible, and I’m not talking about the orchestrated lush pop here, rather the sugary ballads and soul/funk/disco/whatever influences. But they were still brave enough to hang on to their own standards and besides, Pye’s songwriting was definitely on a roll, and anyone who can apply to the formula of generic pop and still come out with winners, is definitely worthy of praise.
Not their best, but still worth a listen.
Many years have passed since I first owned this on vinyl, so I was extremely pleased to find it out on CD and add it to my collection once more. As others have commented, Caravan have produced more "stand out" albums (which band always manages to release albums that are always as good as their best?) but nevertheless this is no turkey. Many of the tracks are extremely listenable, especially on a sunny summer's day, and Dabsong Conshirtoe stands out as one of their best long pieces in a catalogue of extremely good long pieces.
Worth buying, and not just for the "completist" collector (like me :o))
John Beresford (Manchester, UK) 4/5 05.06.2014 (AMAZON)
A Caravan Masterpiece.
Caravan were a great band that never really hit the dizzy heights of stardom. I first heard my brother playing "for those who grow plump in the night" another great Caravan album and decided to investigate more. On all albums you will find a long musical piece and Cunning Stunts has the best. 18 minutes of "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" a great piece of music which starts off slow and melodic and speeds up to great finale. Stand out tracks are "Show of our lives" and "Lover" a beautiful song layered with orchestral strings. A generally up-beat, lively album which would find it's place in any collection. If you haven't heard Caravan before try this, then move on to "For girls who grow plump" and at these prices you can't go wrong.
Kevan John Kite (Spain) 5/5 05.10.2006 (AMAZON)
Not stunningly good, but cunningly fashioned!
Solid, if somewhat unspectacular, 6th studio release from Caravan and the band's last album on the Decca label. By 1975, the only continuous original members, guitarist/songwriter Pye Hastings and drummer Richard Coughlan, were reunited with keyboard wizard Dave Sinclair ~ Mike Wedgwood (bass/vocals) and Geoffrey Richardson (viola) completed the line-up. Caravan's exhausting gigging schedule meant that Hastings only found time to compose 2 of the 7 tracks here; 'Stuck in a Hole' is a bouncy 'pop' song whilst 'No Backstage Pass' is a superb ballad - definitely the classiest song of the album for me. The David Sinclair/John Murphy multi-part epic 'The Dabsong Conshirtoe' takes up most of the second half of proceedings and, although somewhat unwieldy, does have some fine instrumental passages as well as some lovely vocals from Hastings. Whilst this is not Caravan's finest hour, this is still fairly enjoyable and I would say it is worth buying at a reasonably low price after you have discovered the delights of their previous albums e.g 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink' and 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night'.
Prog Rob "RIG" (Stone) 4/5 27.11.2014 (AMAZON)
It's a cool cool album.
Always brilliant some interesting and typically Canterbury. Brilliant live as well. Could't get enough of it.
RASCALL33 (Ecosse) 5/5 03.04.2013 (AMAZON)
Not stunning, but OK!
An additional cd of a band I did not follow way back when. The Dabsong Conshirtoe makes it worthwhile and the other songs are interesting English prog rock with a sense oh humour.
Mr. Raymond G. Hogan 4/5 26.09.2013 (AMAZON)
This CD is another good album this band that delights the lightness of his songs and a subtle vocal. Not the best album of the band, but there is no song bad. It is prized for good remastering and bonus tracks that are very good. It's an album of easy assimilation with a well done rock songs and harmonious. Very good! Note 8.0.
Jose Henrique 4/5 16.04.2013 (AMAZON)
Ye Olde English Rocke.
This record was originally going to be called 'Toys In The Attic', but Aerosmith got there first, apparently. Good, solid English Rock which was nonetheless beginning to sound a little like Caravan were (shock) aiming for the big time. Didn't happen, of course, but 'Cunning Stunts'(geddit?)is still a fine example of Pye Hastings' grip on the English Rock ethic. Some top tunes as well, some of which should be played VERY LOUDLY INDEED.
A Customer 4/5 14.03.2000 (AMAZON)
Disappearing in their own stunts.
Not their best by a long way. If you're looking for a Caravan CD for your collection, try "land of grey and pink" or "girls who grow plump" first- both great albums... By the time "cunning stunts" came out Caravan were turning into some kind of genesis supergroup and seem to have lost that quirky innocence that made their earlier efforts so memorable and lovable. I guess the title gives it away - scraping the barrel for one last laugh. One word review? = Boring.
Christophe. "iron_horse" (sussex, uk) 2/5 29.12.2006 (AMAZON)
'The Show Of Our Lives' is a nice, mellow and pleasant introduction to this record. The bass guitar is strong and melodic, the vocals and harmonies accomplished and the guitar adding just the right amount of beautiful playing over the top. 'Stuck In A Hole' gets back into the kind of funky groovy rhythm that parts of 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' did so well. This does it equally as well, and married to a concise three minute pop song works even better for me. A fun, happy song that sticks in your brain whilst also featuring great playing and that semi-boogie rhythm. 'Lover' makes use of an orchestra, which comes as no surprise after Caravan's 'The New Symphonia' record. Piano enters, the vocals are mellow but straying towards middle of the road, as the whole song is actually. This is far less enjoyable than either of the first two songs, just sounding like a standard mid-seventies ballad and lacks much distinction, although the guitar is nice. 'No Backstage Pass' flows from 'Lover' with a string introduction, takes a good two minutes to get going though, and when it does it's only just worth the wait. Again, a guitar solo tries to rescue this, harmonies come in. It sounds good, but what is it exactly? I just get the impression that recording and performing were becoming more important than the actual writing at this stage, certainly with this song at least. 'Welcome The Day' following two slow songs picks up the pace of the record with more funky groove music, and it's most welcome. And then, horrifically, 'Dabsong Conshirto' is eighteen minutes long!! It opens very sweetly though with acoustic guitar and pretty vocal parts. The strings come in, a couple of minutes later a keyboard part as the rhythm section gets into gear for a more up-tempo section. The song continues to twist and turn like this, until around the ten minute mark a great keyboard solo comes in with bluesy guitar added over the top. A guitar solo, violin, a quick shuffling rhythm. Things are getting better. The track rather explodes into a mess to close, which is a shame, and you do come away feeling unsatisfied with both the track and the album as a whole. The brief one minute long 'The Fear And Loathing In Tollington Park' is a jaunty little acoustic folk guitar exercise, but seems so out of place and not at all related to the rest of album! Still, a couple of fine songs are here, even if this doesn't by any means maintain the quality of the best of Caravan's work.
Adriandenning 6,5/10 (ADRIANDENNING)
Over-produced but by no means dispensable.
O.K. It's the seventh Caravan album. Before this comes the amazing eponymous first album in all its psychedelic glory. After that the redundant "If I Could Do it Again, I'd Do It All Over You", the classic "In the Land Of Grey and Pink", the jazzy but meandering "Waterloo Lily", "Caravan and the New Symphonia", and the complex "For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night". So why bother with this one? Well it's not as bad as all that. In fact it's a big improvement over the symphonic idiocy that they recorded at the Drury Theater to hold them over. The aforementioned Symphonia album is self-indulgent. This is just over-produced. But the songs are fine. "The Show of Our Lives" is grandiose, but the piano is as effective as Lennon's "Imagine". (It's still amazing what a few well chosen chords can do). "Stuck in a Hole" is a toe-tapper and confirms that Pye Hastings was one hell of a song writer. All his songs on the album are good. True, Mike Wedgewood can come perilously close to Steely Dan, and his "Lover" is a "Jealous Guy" knock-off that counts as Caravan only by association. Still, it's a pretty song once the strings kick in. Not top notch Caravan perhaps, but emminently listenable. The Dabsong Concerto is a little unnecessary, but so is a lot of later Floyd. Guilty pleasure as that may be, I still slap "Animals" or "Wish You Were Here" on the turntable (how's that for an anachronism!) once in a while. Like Pink Floyd, Caravan developed into something that didn't quite match their earlier incarnation. But the later stuff is enjoyable on its own terms. No "Land of Grey And Pink" this, but lesser Caravan is still a hell of a lot better than the dollar bin.
A Customer 3/5 21.10.1999 (AMAZON)
I think this album is better than some of their earlier stuff, I find the early stuff rather boring, this album has some real good rock music in it, the opening track is extremely grand with the piano phrase that re appears along with the finale on Dabsong Conshirtoe which in itself is extremely enjoyable with several different movements and the usual high standard of playing expected from this band. Stuck in a hole and Welcome The Day are also good rock music, the latter being an attempt at a funky tune, and to a degree it works. Lover is the weak point, but its sister track No Backstage Pass is one of the best songs on the album. I prefer to listen to this than Land Of Grey and Pink or the First Album, it sounds much more assured. If you like this, you will like For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night and Blind Dog At St Dunstans which are both excellent, as far as the early stuff is concerned check out Waterloo Lilly and If I Could Do It All Over Again Id Do It All Over You.
A Kid's Review 5/5 11.08.2001 (AMAZON)
Not the best, but still good nonetheless.
This album was probably the last of the classic early set from Caravan. Although missing Richard Sinclair (ably replaced by Mike Wedgwood) this still has all the hallmarks of a typical Caravan album: from the folk, jazz and rock licks to the clever and witty lyrics. Also this album is probably one of the better productions in sound quality. The opening track is a good test for any hi-fi system with Richard Coughlan's ride cymbal slithering over a rumbling bass. All-in-all a very good offering and thoroughly recommended.
chank "victor_meldrew" (Toronto) 4/5 03.09.2003 (AMAZON)
Caravans Shot At The Big Time.
I like it, I always have. Guess that means I lose my membership in the prog head, music snob club. It's good rock with catchy lyrics and great instrumental parts. The 18 minute Dave Sinclair classic "Dabsong Conshirtoe" and the bonus tracks make this a must buy.
"The Show Of Our Lives": A good rock tune and never understood why it wasn't a hit. 5 stars
"Stuck in A Hole": Typical Caravan having fun number. 3 stars
"Lover": Sappy love song written by Mike Wedgewood, This is where my prog head snob club membership expires. I like it, good song. 4 stars.
"No Backstage Pass": This is a Pye Hastings ballad and it gives me chills every time I hear it. Pye at his songwriting best. 5 stars.
"Welcome The Day": Another written by Wedgewood and the worst song on the album. Keeps Cunning from a 5 star rating. 3 stars
"The Dabsong Conshirtoe": An 18 minute epic from David Sinclair and worth the price of admission. I only have 5 stars to give and it earns them all.
Summary: This was Caravan's chance to make it big and they give it their best shot. A good album with some good pop tunes, but then they had to go prog and put the 18 minute Dabsong on it. Slickly produced with a rich sound that was not typical in 1975. I liked it the first time I heard it and still like it today. There are a couple of weak tunes on here but that's Caravan. I give it 4 stars, very close to 5 because of Dabsong.
Hornell Fred 4/5 14.12.2011 (AMAZON)
different, but definitely not something to avoid.
I guess if Caravan ever "sold out", this would be the album. However, I have a hard time dismissing an album that contains some pretty good songwriting. Though dated, and probably influenced by the likes of mid 70's Paul McCartney or Leo Sayer, I honestly don't care about any of that because the songwriting is still the main concern here as far the vocal melodies and beautiful arrangements go (the two things Caravan were the masters at). Unfortunately no matter how you look at it, the songwriting IS a lot worse compared to the first 5 Caravan albums. In some cases, such as the pitiful attempt and recapturing past glories in the mediocre poppish "Stuck In a Hole" with its dragging and unspectacular vocal melody, and especially in the case of "Lover" which is an overlong, overdone ballad with only a passable vocal melody, we discover that Caravan lost its adventurous edge. Cunning Stunts is pretty much a pop album with some light ballads thrown around (oh, and by the way- look at all those tricky images on the album cover. I didn't even notice any of them at first!) Of course the BIGGEST trick of all is the tongue twister that is the name of the album. Yes I believe we *all* have to stop to make sure we don't pronounce it the wrong way, especially when we're having music discussions with people who may or may not care for that raw type of humor. BAD Caravan for that naughty little trick. :) You know what? "Lover" sounds almost exactly like America's "I Need You". I don't know if that was in any way intentional or not. Caravan was probably just influenced by the current 70's rock scene at the time, or maybe they wanted more mainstream attention for a taste of the popular bug that so many bands desire? These songs are honestly likeable despite being a disappointment compared to previous albums. The opening song sure is a bit strange though. Don't know what to make of that one. Cunning Stunts is most certainly not a challenging listening experience. The few instrumental bits don't really challenge, or dazzle me for that matter, but I'm really glad the band included them. Occasionally some viola or guitar solos will catch my attention, but Caravan was obviously not interested in jamming very much for this release. The only time we hear instrumental jamming is after the 10-minute mark of "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" and even then it's not NEARLY as compelling as the instrumental work from previous albums. However I'll give "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" credit for one thing- the vocal melodies actually are really good. Best vocals on the entire album in fact, by *far*. The dramatic tone of the repetitive viola at the end is oddly fascinating. Still, let's not even think about comparing this stuff to the lengthy suites from the previous four Caravan albums. Caravan was locked into an amazing groove for those albums. Here it's just... eh. Mainstream. The final track which is only one minute long titled "Fear and Loathing In Tollington Park Rag" is some kind of country jingle that reminds me of the Byrds of all bands. "No Backstage Pass" is a pretty good song. The guitar playing is wonderful, especially the funky groove around the 3:35 point. Actually the background vocals remind me of the Doobie Brothers classic "Takin' It to the Streets". "Welcome the Day" is based around a generic funky groove which is honestly disappointing because Caravan had a unique sound and this is most certainly NOT unique. There's several dozens of 70's bands with this same exact sound. Well at least Caravan had the understanding to assure the vocal melody was good enough, and it is. I like the vocal melody. Overall, well truth be told this is probably a 4-star album but let's be honest- it can't compete with the first 5 Caravan albums. That's the problem with it overall. It's too straight forward, mainstream, and instrumentally unsatisfying. Still, it's a pretty fine album regardless of the problems.
B. E Jackson (Pennsylvania) 4/5 24.09.2009 (AMAZON)
Pretty, or pretty insipid?
I can't make up my mind about 'Cunning Stunts', in spite of the 26 years I've known this record. Here's my typical thought sequence as I play through the album:
#1 'Show of Our Lives' -- reasonably pretty tune, shame about the back-up vocals. Uninspiring guitar solos -- Larry Carlton this is not!
#2 'Stuck in a Hole' -- feeble vocals on a riff with potential bite. Nice viola, though.
#3 'Lover' -- probably just a few notes from being a great tune, but as it is, it's unnoteworthy.
#4 'No Backstage Pass' -- attractive tune and string arrangement
#5 'Welcome the Day' -- abysmal attempt at funk, again let down by utterly the wrong type of voice. The Climax Blues Band subsequently got it right. Actually not a bad guitar solo.
#6 'Dabsong Conshirtoe' -- the traditional Caravan long piece. Has its moments. Why does it need the space of a long track for the band to show off their talents best? And why does the CD player on my PC not allow me to select the index segments within this long track?? Good to reprise the opening theme in the final movement. Perhaps this album isn't so bad after all.
#7 'Fear and Loathing' -- a throwaway track similar to Joe Walsh's 1974 'All-night Laundromat Blues'.
By this stage in their career, Caravan were a solid second-division prog band, who could at times sound like Camel, Barclay James Harvest or even Bobby Goldsboro or the Eagles. What they produced was largely soft-rock. In retrospect they should either not have attempted the heavier riff-based material or recruited a new vocalist -- no offence intended, Pye. But the band got most of their audience feedback from their tours of UK university towns and cities, and soft-rock was a genre with a reasonable student following. (A bloke could take a girl to a Caravan gig, confident that she wouldn't insist on walking out within the first ten minutes.)
Overall, this album is largely BJH territory, and bears no similarity to the Canterbury background which spawned the likes of Robert Wyatt, Matching Mole, Kevin Ayers etc. I can play it once or twice a year and enjoy it, but this album is crucial neither to my CD collection nor to the history of 70s music. Sorry guys.
Gavin Wilson 3/5 18.07.2001 (AMAZON)
Not So Stunning.
Like many other reviewers, I am of two minds about Cunning Stunts. Though there is a lot to like here, there is also some real pop-laden rubbish. While one reviewer's comment that some songs reminded him of Bobby Goldsboro is a little over the top, I can agree that for the most part Cunning Stunts drifts away from the prog foundation that made me like the band in the first place. I was a Caravan fan back in high school and own several of their earlier albums. Recently, while also buying new music, I have been picking up CDs of albums I never heard but always to own and for some reason never got around to buying. This was one of those. So when I saw a remastered version of this listed by an amazon partner at a good price, I ordered it right away and received it within three days. Why own Cunning Stunts? Well, unless you are a die-hard fan of the band, there is no compelling reason to buy. Its truly not so stunning though the title be cunning. Two songs, one of them a bonus cut, make this a CD I'll at least play occasionally. A couple of others are merely decent. The best song here is the bonus cut For Richard, but even this vacillates between some very good prog passages and pure musical twaddle. Ditto for the second best which is entitled the Dabsong Conshirto. No Backstage Pass and Welcome the Day are very listenable, but there isn't a hint of prog in them. As for the rest, well.....you decide!
Kurt Harding "bon vivant" (Boerne TX) 3/5 24.09.2007 (AMAZON)
stunning and cunning.
I had the vinyl version back in the mid 70ies, I always liked this group. I like the usage of viola, flute and guitars, keyboards. Jazzy-folk-rock with quirky lyrics.
potenza 4/5 08.01.2011 (AMAZON)
I am a fan of Caravan, especially their first three albums, but this later album, Cunning Stunts, I found overproduced, overorchestrated and totally lacking the charm of such albums as In the Land of Grey & Pink. There seems to be too much Mike Wedgwood here, where he sings on most of the cuts here, such as the ever mushy "Lover". David Sinclair is on this album, but you hardly even notice him at all, it's almost like he didn't care at this point, which is even less surprising since he left after this album to be replaced by Jan Schelhaas. Caravan had made some of the greatest Canterbury prog albums out there, but sorry to say, with Cunning Stunts, the band messed up here. Don't make this your first purchase. Try an earlier release first, like In the Land of Grey & Pink.
BENJAMIN MILER (Veneta, Oregon) 2/5 10.08.2001 (AMAZON)
Better than Plump.
Some quality tunes on this remaster. A couple of pop tunes, but a good 30 minutes of quality prog melodies, compared to Plump which has about 15-20 minutes of quality prog imo
Toby Geoghegan 5/5 27.11.2008 (AMAZON)
Could do better.
This is definately not one of Caravan's better efforts. This mid-seventies recording presents some of Caravan's weakest compositions, still the musicianship is up to their usual level of excellence. There are two cuts in particular "Lover" and "Welcome the Day" that are particularly weak and actually sound out of place on a Caravan record. Give this one a pass and opt for Waterloo Lily, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night or In the Land of Grey and Pink.
A Customer 2/5 11.07.1999 (AMAZON)
One of Caravan's weaker moments. Couple of decent songs, some weak ones and the worst they've penned-Lover. Some interesting moments but not many. Save your money as this is not worth owning. Turn to In The Land Of Grey And Pink, Waterloo Lily, If I Could Do It All Over Again I'd Do It All Over You or even, For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night...Simon
A Customer 2,5/5 26.02.2002 (AMAZON)
Buy their others 1st....
There R 2 good songs here -- the side-long "Dabsong Conshirtoe" is pretty gorgeous 4 its 1st 5 or 6 minutes, then shifts thru some OK jazzy sections, only 2 Dgenerate in2 noise by the Nd, just in time 4 a reprise of the album's opening track, "The Show of Our Lives," which is the ONLY OTHER good song here. The rest is lame 4gettable trash. MayB they were tired of touring -- hardta Blieve this was Caravan's 1st album 2 hit the charts in America, considering some of the amazing stuff that came B4.... Not enuf work by guitarist/lead-singer Pye Hastings on this album -- also un4tun8 that Decca chose "Show of Our Lives" & 2 other EVEN WORSE tracks 2 fill up the 2nd CD of Caravan's CANTERBURY TALES best-of package -- they should just have used "Dabsong Conshirtoe." Caravan would rebound from this near-fiasco 2 a 4-star 1976 album, BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTANS, that includes all their usual melodic strengths, & more of Hastings' great lyrics & sweet vocals. Other Xcellent late-period Caravan albums include FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT (4 stars), WATERLOO LILY (3-1/2 stars, GREAT 2nd side), & LIVE WITH THE NEW SYMPHONIA (4 stars, & a GREAT live version of "For Richard").
Tracy Deaton (Port Orchard, WA) 2/5 23.09.2002 (AMAZON)
Cunning Stunt est un album assez déconcertant tellement on avait l'habitude d'entendre chez Caravan une signature sonore distinctive. Là on a tantôt du 10cc, tantôt du Soft Machine ou encore du Traffic, toujours bien réalisé mais rarement inspiré à l'image de "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" qui part en trombe pour s'embourber dans un jam funky entêtant qui n'en finit plus. bonus mini lp : +0.3 (plus de 30 minutes de bonus dont une partie live sympa)
Jazzmaster11 3/5 06.05.2013 (RATEYOURMUSIC)